The fans in Houston have mercilessly booed Carlos Beltran every time he has come to play the Astros since he left them to sign with the Mets in 2005, and this year should be no different. But coming off his best individual game…maybe ever as a Met, Beltran could be poised to send thousands of Astros fans home very unhappy this weekend.
Beltran belted three homeruns in the series finale against the Rockies Thursday, becoming the 8th Mets player in the 50 year history of the team to accomplish such a feat. Now #15 comes back to the city he captivated in the 2004 playoffs, once again as the enemy. The Mets can get back to .500 with a series sweep over the Astros, who own the National League’s worst record at 14-23. In order to win all 3 games though, even against a team as inept as Houston, Beltran may have to remain sizzling hot. Ike Davis is on the DL, Jason Bay and David Wright are in bad slumps, and the right side of the infield is anchored by Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner for the forseeable future. Not exactly murderer’s row there at second and first. So the lineup does not look great on paper, and the starting pitching is hot and cold game to game. Still, Houston has 14 wins for a reason- they stink.
The Mets went 4-3 against the Astros last season, including 2-2 in a 4 game series at Minute Maid Park.
5/13/11- Dillon Gee (2-0, 3.80 ERA) vs. Bud Norris (2-2, 3.16 ERA)
5/14/11- R.A. Dickey (1-4, 4.50 ERA) vs. J.A. Happ (2-4, 5.75 ERA)
5/15/11- Chris Capuano (2-4, 4.93 ERA) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (0-1, 5.50 ERA)
Mets Player to Watch: Carlos Beltran
Beltran has been consistent all year, but now he is breaking out of his shell and catching fire. He is doing it at just the right time too, as the team’s best run producer Ike Davis hits the shelf. If Beltran can use the negative attention in Houston as motivation and remain scorching hot he can single-handedly carry the offense for a while. And maybe if he keeps bombing homeruns the slumping hitters around him like Wright and Bay can get into a groove as well.
Astros Player to Watch: Hunter Pence
Hunter Pence is red hot, on a 15-game hitting streak with 22 hits over that span. He is hitting .307 on the year with 31 RBI, good for third in the league. On top of that, Pence has feasted on the Mets in his career, especially at home, where has hits in 13 of his last 14 against the Amazins. If the Mets can keep Hunter Pence off the bases the rest of the Astros lineup can be underwhelming. But once Pence gets going the other guys sometimes follow suit.
It’s hard to ever expect or demand a sweep, especially when you are a mediocre team. But if the Mets are holding onto any thread of hope that they can contend for a playoff spot this year, this is the kind of series you dominate from start to finish. Yes, injuries are depleting the already thin Mets, but this is not time for excuses.
Hopefully Beltran can continue to roll, Reyes will keep getting on base consistently, and the other guys get going too. Dillon Gee and Chris Capuano have both looked good in their starts the past few weeks, and this is a good opportunity for R.A. Dickey to turn things around and get back in the win column. Keep an eye on Friday night’s opener as a potentially good underrated pitching matchup. Gee has not really had a bad start yet in 2011, and Bud Norris is quietly putting together a good season himself, and may finally be living up to the large potential.
I expect the Mets to take the series and win two out of three, but I am hoping they can take them all and get back to .500. It would go a long way towards getting me excited about the team again.